By Raenelle Kwock
Superman and Wonderwoman have been spotted on the Eastern Oregon University campus this season. Wait it's track athletes Damien Johnson and Chelsey Wheelhouse.
Johnson and Wheelhouse are two of the 11 athletes (see related story below) who have qualified for the NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships, in Louisville, Ky., Thursday through Saturday.
"He's Superman," Wheelhouse chuckled about Johnson.
Johnson is a fiery competitor but humble off the track.
"That's my guy right there," Johnson says, pointing to coach Ben Welch, explaining who has helped him become a phenomenal athlete.
Johnson is "genetic studliness," says Welch, laughing.
Johnson heard about EOU while attending Clark Community College in Vancouver, Wash. Clark Community College coach Erik Anderson said EOU would be a good fit.
"It worked out good for us," Welch says.
Johnson is also a running back for the Eastern Oregon football team.
"I missed it," Johnson says about track. "I knew I'd do (both sports)."
Johnson is a classic example of an athlete with the right tools to be a dual-sport athlete, helping in football and a huge factor in track, Welch says.
Even though Johnson is a senior this term, he has one year of eligibility left and will play football this fall. He will graduate next year.
"The thing is, Damien does not take credit," Welch said. "He's a hard worker and great competitor."
Throughout the season, Johnson always does what he is told to do, Welch said.
"We'd ask him what he wanted to do," Welch recalls, and Johnson would say I don't know. What do you think I need to do?'"
Johnson was the 2003 Cascade Conference men's track athlete of the year, and champion of the conference in the 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and triple jump.
Johnson started his collegiate career at Washington State University on a track scholarship. Welch says it did not work out, and Johnson transferred to Clark Community College before arriving at Eastern.
In Louisville, Johnson will compete in the decathlon, triple jump, and 110- and 400-meter hurdles.
Johnson is seeded 12th in the decathlon with 5,914 points. In the triple jump, he is 23rd with a 46 feet, 8 inch mark.
His time in the 110-meter hurdles is 15.13 seconds, while his 400-meter hurdle time is 53.88.
Step by step
Wheelhouse has steadily improved her hammer-throw marks.
She said her workout schedule has been a huge factor making the transition from indoor to outdoor season.
Wheelhouse threw the weight during the indoor season, and throws the hammer in the outdoor season.
The weight is 20 pounds, the hammer, 8 pounds.
"I like to throw a lot," Wheelhouse says. "Hammer is my favorite."
Wheelhouse, from Glenwood, Wash., is a sophomore rangeland resources major. There is no hammer throw, however, in high school track.
"It's a pity," she says. "I would have loved it in high school."
Wheelhouse qualified for nationals in the hammer throw with a 154-5 mark and a No. 16 seed.
Wheelhouse said it has been tough making the transition from indoor to outdoor in terms of the competition. She said during outdoor season she is competing with people she knows instead of during the indoor season when only Division I competitors are alongside her.
About her success during the outdoor season, she said, "I quit thinking. I started having fun with it (hammer)."